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Opinion / Editorial

SEPA application, historic day

SEPA application, historic day

Yesterday, the Governor of the Bank of Albania, Gent Sejko, signed the Republic of Albania's application for membership in the geographic area of ??the unique euro payment system SEPA. This is a historic day not only for the financial system in the country, but for all Albanian citizens. But why? All 27 Member States of the European Union have their own unique system, called the "Single European Payment Area (in English, Single European Payment Area, or SEPA)". This system started functioning in 2008 and was completed in 2016. The integration of payments, realized by SEPA, has contributed to the efficiency of payments of citizens and businesses, as well as improved the competitiveness of the European economy as a whole. During its 16 years of operation, the SEPA payment system has benefited the citizens of the European Union with hundreds of millions of euros in lower cross-border payment fees. As part of the Economic Growth Plan of the European Union for the 6 countries of the Western Balkans, Albania has received the green light from the European Commission to become part of SEPA, the unique European payment system. SEPA has virtually eliminated the differences between national and cross-border payments. The latter, before 2008, were several times higher than payments within an EU country. With yesterday's application, Albania became the first country from the Western Balkans to apply to become part of the Single European Payment System (SEPA). This came, thanks to the complete harmonization of the regulatory framework by the Bank of Albania. This progress is evidenced by a World Bank report, where it is stated that our country has met all nine criteria necessary to enter SEPA. The legal framework for SEPA, which the European Central Bank helped to draft in close cooperation with the European Commission, is based on EU laws and directives such as the Cross-Border Payments Regulation, the Payment Services Directive (PSD/PSD2 ), the SEPA Migration Deadline Regulation and the Interchange Fee Regulation. Thanks to this single payment system, our citizens can make payments in euros without cash, by transferring their euro credit or debit card, anywhere in the European Union, just as if they were in their own country. Payments are made in SEPA within a day, if they are online, and up to two working days, if they are by physical payment order, regardless of where you are in the European Union. The cost of these payments is very small, with fees ranging from 1-2 euros for small amounts up to 500 euros, as well as a maximum fee of 10-20 euros for amounts over 10,000 euros. Our central bank worked hard, since 2021, to meet the application deadlines. In two-three months after the application, it is hoped that our citizens will be part of the Unified European Payment System. This represents a significant benefit for individuals, businesses and immigrants. Also, for tourists. this,as commissions within SEPA will be times lower and transactions faster. Every transfer from each SEPA member country will arrive within one working day, while until now it took a week. Businesses will benefit, importers and exporters will benefit, but so will citizens. The first biggest beneficiaries will be the immigrants who bring money to Albania to their families here. According to the Bank of Albania, the establishment of the interbank system in the country, for transfers in euros, since 2022, saved citizens about 47 million euros. With integration into the Single European Payments Area, savings will increase several times. Only for the first year, that is, for this year, we can have about 20 million euros in savings from the reduction of commissions as in table 3, including individuals and businesses. In other years to come, the savings figures will be even greater. Albania's entry into SEPA will affect the formalization of our economy, the increase in financial inclusion, the modernization of payments and, in parallel, financial education, which our central bank has a major project. The Bank of Albania's several-year work on SEPA integration is expected to be finalized with the implementation of a fast payment system (in English, "Instant payments"), which will enable all citizens and entrepreneurs to transfer money in real time. The system will further promote competition between banking and non-banking institutions, reducing costs and increasing the quality of service for citizens. Entering SEPA for us will be an achievement and a very big step to further modernize our payment systems, to be fully compatible with the modern systems of the European Union. In reaching this stage, our country will not have any difference with the modern payment systems it uses, compared to European countries that are members of the European Union. SEPA membership has already become a national priority for us. The successful implementation of this system will create the conditions for our integration into the European TIPS system, but it can also serve as a solution for other countries in the Western Balkans.In other years to come, the savings figures will be even greater. Albania's entry into SEPA will affect the formalization of our economy, the increase in financial inclusion, the modernization of payments and, in parallel, financial education, which our central bank has a major project. The Bank of Albania's several-year work on SEPA integration is expected to be finalized with the implementation of a fast payment system (in English, "Instant payments"), which will enable all citizens and entrepreneurs to transfer money in real time. The system will further promote competition between banking and non-banking institutions, reducing costs and increasing the quality of service for citizens. Entering SEPA for us will be an achievement and a very big step to further modernize our payment systems, to be fully compatible with the modern systems of the European Union. In reaching this stage, our country will not have any difference with the modern payment systems it uses, compared to European countries that are members of the European Union. SEPA membership has already become a national priority for us. The successful implementation of this system will create the conditions for our integration into the European TIPS system, but it can also serve as a solution for other countries in the Western Balkans.In other years to come, the savings figures will be even greater. Albania's entry into SEPA will affect the formalization of our economy, the increase in financial inclusion, the modernization of payments and, in parallel, financial education, which our central bank has a major project. The Bank of Albania's several-year work on SEPA integration is expected to be finalized with the implementation of a fast payment system (in English, "Instant payments"), which will enable all citizens and entrepreneurs to transfer money in real time. The system will further promote competition between banking and non-banking institutions, reducing costs and increasing the quality of service for citizens. Entering SEPA for us will be an achievement and a very big step to further modernize our payment systems, to be fully compatible with the modern systems of the European Union. In reaching this stage, our country will not have any difference with the modern payment systems it uses, compared to European countries that are members of the European Union. SEPA membership has already become a national priority for us. The successful implementation of this system will create the conditions for our integration into the European TIPS system, but it can also serve as a solution for other countries in the Western Balkans.